Designing a glider wing helps students understand forces and what it means to be an engineer.
Mary and Michael have good ideas but struggle to implement them: they need the help of your class to fly a glider in a straight line between their two bedroom windows.
For approximately three and a half hours, small groups of pupils (aged 9–12) will work together to explore the forces that allow heavy machines such as gliders to fly, to investigate appropriate materials, and then to design and test their own gliders.
For the launcher:
For the glider:
Supporting information, images and instructions can be downloaded from the additional material section.
Before the lesson, the teacher should:
Subject: Please help us!
Attached: Picture of our street.jpg
Dear Year 5,
Please help us!
Your head teacher suggested that you would be the best people to help us with a problem that we need to solve.
My name is Mary and my bedroom window is opposite my best friend Michael’s window. We think it would be fun to build a model glider that can be flown from my window to Michael’s window (and for him to be able to send it back to me). That way we can send each other messages and, if we can build the glider well enough, perhaps small gifts.
Can you help us by finding out about gliders and sending us some information on how to build a glider that works? I’ve attached a picture showing you our houses, which might help.
Thanks for all your help,
Scientists and engineers refer to the downward force that is produced by gravity as weight, w. How much weight force there is on an object depends on the acceleration due to gravity, g, and mass, m. Mass is how much ‘stuff’ there is in an object and it is measured in grams (or kilograms, kg). In English, we often use the word ‘weight’ when we are really talking about ‘mass’. If you want to make something fly, like a glider, you want to make it as light as possible so that the downward weight force can be kept as small as possible. Weight, mass and gravity are linked together by the following equation:
w = m x g
This is an important principle for an aeronautic engineer.
Scientists and engineers call any force that works upwards ‘lift’. Wings only help to lift a glider into the air if the glider is moving forward fast enough, because it is the movement of air over and under an aircraft’s wings that is essential to creating lift. If you want a glider to fly in a straight line, you need the forces of weight and lift to be carefully balanced, just like in the tug-of-war demonstration.